The world of 2008 presidential politics is like a glacier: Much more is going on below the surface than above it.
Take, for example, a trip last week by 50 members of the Greenville and Spartanburg chambers of commerce to Capitol Hill organized by Rep. Bob Inglis (R-S.C.).
In three days, the group heard speeches from four potential presidential candidates. "It is great to be an early primary state because it means you can get fabulous speakers," Inglis said.
On Tuesday, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) addressed the group. The following day it was former speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.).
Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) wanted to appear on Wednesday, but at the last minute called Inglis to beg off: It was his turn to question John G. Roberts Jr. at his Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) was invited but declined.
None of the politicians made a direct reference to their aspirations, said a source in the room, but it doesn't take a MacArthur Foundation genius to figure out why they were there.
South Carolina has been a hotbed of presidential politics -- especially for Republicans -- since the inception of the primary there in 1980. In 1996 it helped Robert J. Dole bounce back from a defeat in New Hampshire. In 2000, South Carolina voters essentially ended McCain's challenge to George W. Bush for the party nod.
Daschle's Tinkering, but for What?
Speaking of 2008, former Senate minority leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.) has made several moves in recent days that have insiders wondering whether he is laying the groundwork for a national campaign.
First, the Iowa Democratic Party announced Tuesday that Daschle will be the guest speaker at the annual Jefferson-Jackson Dinner on Nov. 5, a coveted slot for any 2008 aspirant.
Second, Daschle has re-formed his "Dedicated Americans in the Senate and the House" Political Action Committee (DASHPAC) as the "New Leadership for America" PAC, transferring $500,000 from the old account, according to PoliticalMoneyLine. Daschle has also established a "527" account under the same name.
Steve Hildebrand, a longtime Daschle adviser, said that the chance of Daschle running for president is "probably pretty low," but Hildebrand would not rule it out.
Specter's Team Moves to R.I.
As Sen. Lincoln D. Chafee (R-R.I.) gears up for a contentious primary race next year against Cranston Mayor Steve Laffey, he will turn to a group of consultants who know a little something about his situation.
Chafee has hired the same political team that helped Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) defeat a primary challenge from then-Rep. Pat Toomey, a conservative Republican, in 2004.
Christopher Nicholas, who was Specter's campaign manager, will be a general consultant to Chafee. Glen Bolger of Public Opinion Strategies will handle the senator's polling, while Chris Mottola will be the campaign media consultant.
While no two races are the same, comparisons between the situations of Specter and Chafee are apt. Both entered their races as self-proclaimed moderates who had lost a portion of the GOP base vote because of their centrist tendencies.
Their strategies are also similar. The Specter team was able to re-register Democrats and independents as Republicans before the primary to ensure the senator slipped by Toomey, 51 to 49 percent.
In Rhode Island, voters can participate in either the Republican or Democratic primary regardless of affiliation. Chafee forces will try to persuade Democrats to vote for Chafee on primary day.
Cillizza is a staff writer for washingtonpost.com